University students across the country met today on their campuses to discuss the ongoing crisis, and to plan for ways to counter the Maduro regime. The regime responded by violently repressing the demonstrations in many of the campuses.
One of the universities hardest hit by the repression was the Universidad Central de Venezuela (UCV), located in central Caracas. 14 students were injured in skirmishes throughout the day, as National Guard soldiers fired tear gas and rubber pellets at the students in their campus.
The rector of the university, Cecilia Garcia Arocha, told reporters that the National Guard began their assault while the students performed a lie-in, which involves lying down on the ground as a sign of protest. At least one student was seriously injured, suffering “cranium trauma”.
On the importance of the university and the student movement more broadly, Arocha said;
They are our future. They are very important for everyone. We remain in absolute resistance. We are the immense majority.
The videos below show the students and National Guard soldiers in a skirmish on the UCV campus. The National Guard would not let the students leave the campus:
At least one student was injured, likely by a tear gas canister to the head. The video below shows him getting medical aid from volunteers:
Elsewhere in Caracas, students from the Universidad Catolica Santa Rosa (UCSAR) were attacked by a group of civilians while they marched on the Cota Mil road, which runs along the north side of Caracas. The attackers threw a tear gas grenade at the students, who dispersed in panic.
Student Leader Murdered During Assembly in Anzoategui
Juan Lopez, the head of the head of the Federacion de Centros Universitarios [Federation of Universities] at the Instituto Universitario Tecnologico Jose Antonio Anzoategui [Technological University Institute Jose Antonio Anzoategui] was murdered today while he headed a student meeting on campus in light of today’s nation-wide student protests.
Media reports claim that a man walked up to Lopez and shot him several times, killing him on the spot. Three other people were also injured in the shooting.
While it is not clear if the shooting was related to Lopez’s political activities, local media reports that Lopez was the target of another attack at his home in December.
Valencia Chamber of Commerce Asks for State of Emergency After Looting Sprees
The Valencia Chamber of Commerce, which represents businesses in the city of Valencia, Carabobo state, has asked PSUV governor Francisco Ameliach to declare a state of emergency in the city after looting sprees in the last several days have left sectors of the city in ruins.
A Carabobo state police officer named Gerardo Barrera was killed in the overnight hours during unrest in the area of San Joaquin, which is a suburb of Valencia. Barrera’s death is the 38th since unrest broke out in the country on April 4.
Guillermo Manosalva, the head of the Chamber of Commerce, told reporters that he feared Valencia could suffer from the same level of destruction that affected Ciudad Bolivar and other cities in Bolivar state at the end of last year, when a complete collapse of social order resulted in a week-long looting spree there. Manosalva said:
We’re afraid that this might escape the authorities’ hands and that we will see a repeat of what happened in Bolivar [state].
Rodolfo Cibanik, whose heads a business guild called Fedeindustria Carabobo, explained what Valencia has been seeing over the past few days:
These are organized bands of 50 to 100 people that are roaming around in Flor Amarillo or the Lisandro Alvarado avenue on the hunt for any type of business. It doesn’t matter if it sells food, motor oil, repair parts or alcohol.
El Nacional reports that at least 90 businesses have been looted in Valencia over the last few days, and that 80% have reported total losses.
The image below was taken during a looting spree in Valencia some time this past week:
The images below show the results of looting last night. A McDonald’s was gutted:
The video below shows looters breaking into a bakery in the Parque Valencia araea of the city at around 1:00 AM this morning:
Below, looters hitting the San Diego supermarket:
A Central Madeirense supermarket was also struck by looters, this one in the La Isabelica neighbourhood of the city:
Unrest also shook other parts of Carabobo state today. The video below shows protesters rushing an injured protester away from the front lines to receive medical care near San Diego:
The video below shows protesters and National Guard soldiers fighting somewhere in Carabobo earlier today. A protester lays on the ground at the end of the video. As of the posting of this update, there have been no reports of deaths in the unrest in Carabobo today:
The video below shows Carabobo State police looting an air conditioning warehouse somewhere in Carabobo. The video was likely recorded today:
Millions Await News in Anguish as Rumour of Leopoldo Lopez’s Death Spreads
Venezuela held its breath yesterday night as a rumour stating that jailed opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez had died in custody at the Ramo Verde military prison. Leopoldo has been held incommunicado for the past month, and no one outside of the Ramo Verde military facility–including his family and lawyers–has had any contact with him for approximately four weeks.
The rumour began with a tweet from Leopoldo Castillo, a well-respected and reputable Venezuelan journalist who lives in exile in Miami.
At 8:01 PM, Castillo wrote:
[I have been informed] that Leopoldo Lopez has been taken from the Ramo Verde [prison] to the Military Hospital without vital signs. The regime is toying with the hypothesis that he was intoxicated.
Such was the force of the shockwave that Castillo’s tweet sent that he was forced to clarify an hour later late his account had not been hacked, and that he truly was reporting the story:
My account has not been hacked. I am sorry to share these news.
The national media did not pick up the story, likely given the possible repercussions of it being true or false. If true, Lopez’s death could have triggered a social explosion unlike anything that Venezuela has seen in years. If false, the story could have spread panic at the end of an already tense day that had seen one protester killed and hundreds more injured as a result of brutal repression from the regime.
At 9:33 PM, Leopoldo Lopez’s wife, Lilian Tintori, tweeted that she was on her way to the Military Hospital, apparently confirming the story that Leopoldo was there:
#URGENT At this moment I’m heading to the Military hospital to ask to see Leopoldo
Tintori’s message was quickly followed by one from United States Senator Marco Rubio, who represents a district in Florida and is aware of the Venezuelan crisis:
Once at the gates of the Military Hospital in Caracas, Tintori and Lopez’s mother were denied access to the facilities.In the video below, a tearful Tintori begs the guards to answer her question about her husband’s whereabouts. It would be 45 minutes before the guards would even confirm that Lopez had in fact not been admitted to the hospital that night:
As Tintori and Lopez’s lawyers headed to the Ramo Verde prison, PSUV vice-president Diosdado Cabello showed a video of Lopez in Ramo Verde as evidence that he was alive an unharmed. Below, the video that Cabello showed live on television last night at approximately 10:45 PM:
Leopoldo Lopez:This is a message to my family to prove that I’m alive. It’s May 3, 9:00 PM. This message is for Lilian. I don’t understand why there is a need to prove that I’m alive right now. I’m sending this family to my family and my children: I am O.K.
Both Tintori and Lopez’s second-in-command at the Voluntad Popular party, Freddy Guevara, appeared convinced that the man in the video was Lopez. Both also stressed that the video was not a substitute for Lopez having access to visits, specially from his family and his lawyers, and demanded that the regime allow them to see Lopez in person immediately.
Opposition Calls for Women’s March on Saturday
Lilian Tintori held a press conference today in which she called on all Venezuelan women to march together on Saturday, May 6 against the Maduro regime. In Caracas, the march will rally at in the Chacaito neighbourhood starting at 10:00 AM, and will attempt to make it to the offices of the Ministry of the Interior, Justice and Peace.
Tintori called on the regime’s repressive arms–the National Guard and National Bolivarian Police–to consider their reaction to the peaceful march on Saturday. Tintori said:
Are you going to shoot us women? [Minister of Defense] Vladimir Padrino Lopez, are you going to shoot women this Saturday?
Tintori also had a message directly for Maduro, and spoke on the necessity of the ongoing protests by saying:
We suffered two coup d’etats last month. They’re trying to get rid of the National Assembly and the free, universal and secret vote that we so dearly want as a way out of this disaster. Maduro, let the people express themselves through the vote and release the political prisoners.
Protesters Interrupt People’s Defender Speech in Lebanon
People’s Defender Tarek William Saab has been in Lebanon this week to help with the creation of the country’s National Institute for the Defense of Human Rights. Saab, who is of Lebanese descent, gave a speech today at conference of the Lebanese diaspora when he was interrupted by protesters carrying Venezuelan flags and shouting anti-regime slogans.
In the video below, Saab can be seen on stage while a woman holds a Venezuelan flag upside down as a sign of distress. Another woman yells, “You are killing us! Where are Venezuelans’ human rights?”:
A small group of demonstrators also congregate outside of the building where Saab was speaking throughout his speech.
Saab has been People’s Defender since 2014. While is role demands that he work to guarantee the human rights of Venezuelans and investigate any allegations of violations, he has stood idle throughout the worst of the Maduro regime’s repression.
CNE Rector Says Maduro Cannot Convene Constituent Assembly
Luis Emilio Rondon, one of the five rectors of the Consejo Nacional Electoral (CNE) and the only one who is not openly pro-PSUV, told reporters today that Maduro did not have the power to convene a Constituent Assembly as he vowed to do on Monday. The opposition believes that Maduro is attempting to re-design that constitution to his liking in order to cement his authoritarian rule over the country.
Rondon told reporters:
The Constitution does not give the president the power to convene a Constituent Assembly. The only ones who can do that are the people, which the Constitution says hold the originating power [of the State]. The president can suggest [a Constituent Assembly], but the people must be consulted [via a referendum] in order to activate this mechanism, which means that the call to convene the Constituent Assembly is contrary to the Constitution.
The last time that Venezuela held a Constituent Assembly was in 1999. Hugo Chavez, who was president at the time, followed the process that Rendon describes: he suggested that a Constituent Assembly be held, and submitted the suggestion to a referendum.
Rondon is the only one of the CNE’s five heads who is not openly pro-PSUV, meaning that his comments and decisions are often completely ignored by the body.
Dudamel Speaks Out Against Regime
Gustavo Dudamel, a renowned Venezuelan conductor who heads the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, has long been criticized by critics of chavismo for not using his high profile to speak out against the abuses of the Maduro regime. Dudamel’s refusal to speak publicly on events in Venezuela has for years been taken as a signal by many that he supports chavismo.
Dudamel took the unprecedented step this afternoon of speaking out for the first time against the Maduro regime. In a message shared on his Facebook wall, Dudamel called on Maduro to “stop ignoring the just cry of the people” for freedom and democracy, and called the ongoing social, political and economic crisis in the country “intolerable”.
Below, the message that Dudamel shared on social media:
My entire life has been devoted to music and art as a way of transforming societies. I raise my voice against violence. I raise my voice against any form of repression.Nothing justifies bloodshed. We must stop ignoring the just cry of the people suffocated by an intolerable crisis. Extreme confrontation and polarization cannot seize common conscience and peace, constituting borders and barriers to understanding and peaceful and democratic coexistence. Historically the Venezuelans have been a fighting people but never a violent one.For democracy to be healthy there must be true respect and understanding. Democracy cannot be built to fit the needs of a particular government or otherwise it would cease to be a democracy. The democratic exercise involves listening to the voice of the majority as the ultimate bulwark of social truth. No ideology can go beyond the common good.Politics must be exercised from conscience and in the utmost respect of the Constitution, adapting itself to a young society that, like the Venezuelan, has the right to reinvent itself through the healthy and unobjectionable democratic checks and balances.Venezuelans are desperate for their inalienable right to well-being and the satisfaction of their basic needs. The only weapons that can be given to people are the necessary tools to forge their future: books, brushes, musical instruments; in short, those that embody the highest values of the human spirit: good, truth and beauty.I urgently call on the President of the Republic and the national government to rectify and listen to the voice of the Venezuelan people. Times cannot be defined by the blood of our people. We owe our youth a hopeful world, a country where we can walk freely in dissent, in respect, in tolerance, in dialogue and in which dreams have room to build the Venezuela we all yearn for.It is time to listen to the people: Enough is enough.